The high-end ANC wireless headphone market has been rather stagnant for the past few years, but that is about to experience a massive overhaul. Focal, Mark Levinson, T+A, and Bowers & Wilkins have bypassed HiFiMAN who took the initial plunge and introduced some incredible products that are vastly superior to anything Sony, Bose, or Apple offer. The Master & Dynamic MW75 throw their hat into the ring at a price that might prove to be a strong selling point.
Master & Dynamic entered the headphone industry in 2014 with some clear goals; better sound quality and industrial design for the luxury end of the market. It was the ethos from the very beginning and they have not strayed from the path; the current lineup of ten headphones and earphones has something for almost anyone looking for something unique.
The brand also offers an innovative loudspeaker and has pulled off some successful collaborations with Mercedes/AMG and Lamborghini.
EIC Ian White recently noticed that Master & Dynamic headphones are being offered in First Class on long haul flights from Los Angeles to NYC and also Miami and Orlando.
With almost 8 years behind them and having survived a global pandemic and major economic recession, the brand is pushing forward with new models like the Master & Dynamic MW75 which are aimed at the mid to upper end of the market.
It is no longer enough to offer excellent ANC and average sound quality; consumers have a growing list of options that offer both and have demonstrated a willingness to pay for it.
The MW75 retail for $599.95 USD which makes them more expensive than anything offered by Sony, Bose, or Apple — but that also less expensive than the comparable models from Mark Levinson, Bowers & Wilkins (Px8), T+A, and the rumored ANC wireless headphones coming from Focal.
$600 places them in rather elite company which means that the build quality has to be first rate and the comfort level for longer listening sessions (6 hour flight) has to be superior as well.
The Master & Dynamic MW75 feature lightweight anodized aluminum construction, lambskin leather ear pads, and a well thought out hard case with pockets for accessories and a heavy felt lining to protect the headphones.
The industrial design will be familiar to those who have tried or purchased their headphones before; the solidly constructed headband with memory foam padding on the underside and a leather wrapped upper cover feels very comfortable after even 5 or 6 hours of listening.
The upper cover shows off the leather grain, while the leather surfaces that touch skin and your hair are finished in a smooth lambskin. The competition could learn a few things from Master & Dynamic in that regard. Comfort is everything to consumers.
Adjustment is by sliding rods with the last 0.25 inch being a hinge that offers rotation on the vertical axis up to 90° in one direction and 15° in the other. The single sided gimbals provide adjustment of roughly 15° in either direction on the horizontal axis.
The ear cups are stepped with a circular rear portion and a sloped inner surface with controls on the sides of the outer circles. The left ear cup has the power, ANC, and pairing controls while the right has the play/pause and forward/back buttons.
The right ear cup has a USB Type-C port on the bottom and both cups have an external mic on the front of the inner cup. The ear pads are also memory foam with lambskin and use magnetic attachments that make pad changes a breeze; a design choice that other manufacturers need to start using.
There are three color options for the frame, gunmetal, silver, or black and three leather options; black, gray, or brown. Not every combination is available though so choices are (metal/pad) black/black, gunmetal/black, silver/gray, or silver/brown.
My test sample was the black on black configuration but my eye was drawn to the silver/brown version which looks extremely elegant.
Master & Dynamic also offer a monogram option for those willing to pay for it.
The MW75 features very little plastic; one can only find it inside the ear cup where polymers are utilized for the baffles and frame. The aluminum construction gives the headphone some needed heft, but they have still managed to keep the weight to a comfortable 388 grams.
Internally, the MW75 utilizes 40mm beryllium plated dynamic drivers with a nominal 32 ohms impedance and a measured sensitivity of 99dB/mW +/- 3dB @1KHz according to my test rig.
The drivers use a combination of internal structure and angled pads to deliver a large soundstage despite the closed back design.
Connectivity to your smart phone, tablet, or laptop is through Bluetooth 5.1 with support for SBC, AAC, and aptX Adaptive; or through a 3.5mm to USB-C cable for wired connections.
It should be noted that the 3.5mm wired connection does not support the microphones as it is a TRS connection only. The USB Type-C to USB Type-C cable does support connection to a device in addition to charging and when connected to a laptop, the MW75 does show up as both a playback and recording device so the microphones can be used for gaming when using the USB to USB cable.
A USB Type-A to USB Type-C adapter is provided if using the cable with consoles that do not have a USB Type-C port.
While most of the controls can be handled on the headphone itself, the app brings a number of added benefits including the ability to add 4 EQ presets to customize the sound, access to the ANC settings, and the tabs for enabling or disabling the audio prompts and on-head detection.
Firmware updates are also handled through the app so it is 100% necessary to download the app to ensure that updates are installed when they become available.
The battery life claims are mostly accurate; Master & Dynamic promises 40 hours with ANC disengaged and 32 hours with the ANC “all-day” mode turned on. We easily hit 39-40 hours with ANC turned off through multiple tests, but with the ANC MAX setting turned on — the battery life fell to almost 28 hours, which is still very respectable performance.
Recharging performance truly varied depending on the power source and how little power remained; our tests showed 2-4 hours depending the amperage and level of discharge.
ANC technology has really improved over the past two years and it was interesting to see how the MW75 compared to some of its rivals; there are 3 levels of ANC and two ambient mode settings. You are able to turn off both which is a good feature.
The ANC MAX setting proved to be very effective in loud environments like a train station or shopping mall, but it also became a major source of battery drain; the ANC Adaptive setting which varies the level of noise cancelling depending on the environment was actually quite effective and far better for battery life.
The “all-day” ANC setting is a step back and will remove enough outside noise to be usable in the average home or office situation and has even less impact on battery life.
The ambient settings offer either a vocal pass-through or an awareness mode that passes through enough of the outside world to hear horns, voices, or other critical location cues.
We have made it a habit to mention this in every review — location awareness is very important and never use ANC to the point that you don’t hear a vehicle or stranger approaching.
I found the ANC Adaptive setting to be my favorite of the bunch as it cut out most outside noise without having a big impact on either battery or sound. The ANC also works well during calls as wind noise was reduced considerably (and better than many I’ve tried) which makes calls while traveling or outdoors nearly as clear as calls at home.
The overall ANC performance is adequate but not class leading; spending more on the MW75 over something like the Sony WH-1000XM5 or Bose QC45 Headphones is really dependent on how important sound quality and comfort matter to you.
ANC and other features are important — but sound quality should be the deciding factor and that is where the MW75 is superior to both of those headphones.
The tuning of the MW75 should appeal to a lot of listeners; the low end is slightly boosted which proved to be excellent for rock, and the slightly warm tonal balance combined with an open and very spacious sounding top end kept me interested for many hours.
The low end performance had good depth and impact, but not at the expense of clarity or texture. There is some added emphasis that extends into the mid bass and up into the lower midrange that contributes to the overall warm sonic signature.
These are not analytical sounding headphones; the added emphasis might come across as being slightly aggressive to some, but that can be fixed using a source app or the presets to dial it back. Unfortunately, the app does not offer a customizable EQ setting.
The bass emphasis proved to be excellent for gaming, and music with a lot of low end energy.
Some will find it to be too much when listening to classical or jazz. I used the EQ with both genres to reduce the bass response because it started to bleed into the lower midrange.
The warm tone will be rather pleasing for a lot of listeners but it does obscure some detail in the upper bass and lower midrange.
The midrange offers better clarity, texture, and detail with fast transient response helping with note separation.
Male vocals are pushed slightly ahead of the instrumentation and the overall tonal balance and timbre were excellent with most genres of music.
Guitar notes had excellent growl and detail; the MW75 don’t offer the clarity or detail retrieval of the forthcoming Focal wireless headphones, but there was a naturalness to the sound that made acoustic guitar tracks sound very accurate with just enough sustain to sound believable.
The lower treble starts off mildly elevated (coming from the upper midrange vocal push) and retains that energy through the 10kHz range which gives the MW75 a rather open sounding top end.
The flip side is that poorly recorded tracks with an elevated top end can become somewhat fatiguing. We noticed some sibilance with bad recordings that required some EQ; the more energetic top end is unlike a number of the other headphones in the category right now which demonstrate more restraint.
Master & Dynamic chose to offer more detail and impact in the treble and for some it will make them sound more open.
Snare rattle is crisp, and cymbals have good energy which is the trade-off for a slightly fatiguing listen.
After listening to the MW75 for more than two weeks on a daily basis, it is our opinion that they sound better at moderate listening levels and that pushing them too hard only exacerbates the aforementioned elevated treble.
The soundstage is rather wide for a closed back wireless headphone and imaging was more than respectable.
Master & Dynamic have done a very good job with the MW75 ANC wireless headphones; the build quality, industrial design, battery life, and comfort are all strong selling points.
The sound quality is similar to other Master & Dynamic designs that follow the Harman Curve; a warm tonal balance with a punchy midrange and open sounding top end.
The absence of a custom EQ in the app to help tune the bass and treble needs to be fixed in a future firmware update and the ANC needs some fine tuning to push the MW75 further up our rankings.
The price is a major plus because while the ANC needs some refinement, the overall performance and value for the money is quite strong.
Are they superior to the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2?
The ANC performance and slightly elevated top end would drive me to select the Px7 S2 headphones, but others might prefer the tonal balance and superior phone call quality.
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